If there was ever a car that was a guilty pleasure for me it’s the Volkswagen (VW), Bug/”New Beetle” (1999-2011)/”Beetle” (after 2011). I know it’s not the most masculine car around but I have a lifelong love affair with this little car from VW.
I used to watch the original “Herbie the Love Bug” movies as a kid but it goes deeper than that.
So let me start 35 years ago, my late father bought a light blue 1969 VW Beetle as a project car. As with every other car that my father had, I loved it. As they say in the car business this vehicle had “character” that means it looked nice but was beat to hell.
The floor was rotting out (it was straight “Fred Flintstone” you could see the ground pass under you), engine was fine, seats were okay. It was the first car I ever saw with a sunroof and it was a manual crank sunroof at that.
Anyway dad had big plans for the little car, he got VW catalogs from his parts guys, we went to at least one VW Bug car show and looked at custom VW’s and got ideas to fix the car up, it was going be great.
But two things happened, one is that at that time we had so many cars at the old house on 123rd Street, the VW had to sit on the street in front of the house. The other is when dad did start working on it, the floorboards and under carriage was pretty far gone. It would take a lot of work and money just to get the structure right.
I learned back then sometimes working on cars means you can’t “save” every car. Some are too far gone and so was this VW, so even though dad did get some customizing on it (wheels & exhaust), the project had to stop and the car was sold unfinished.
Fast forward 15 years, I’m at DePaul University and a friend of a friend bought a “New Beetle”. So as only college kids do, we piled in that VW like the proverbial clowns at the circus. Not a bad little car. I immediately thought of my dad’s old VW and it didn’t compare.
Fast forward another six years and another friend bought a “New Beetle” and we went out to dinner and took a spin. Her’s was really nice, black with a manual transmission and drove really nice. She had bought it from a mutual friend who had upgraded to the turbo model and got a steal on it.
I’m real familiar with VW’s because my Godmother (Dolores), has been a VW owner for nearly 30 years, first with a Golf and then the last 20 years owning Jettas. I almost bought a Jetta III after college because of her experience but a dealership (that is long out of business), tried to sell me one with a flat tire. They also tried to sell me a “New Beetle” back then but I was image conscious (I was 23 years old), and they were pricey at the time.
So now I see a lot of used “New Beetles” out there, with surprisingly low miles for under $ 7,000.
I’ve noticed a red one at a used car lot on the way to my mother’s house, it’s been there since the summer. Means there might need more work on it (especially for sitting for seven months), but now I’m 40 years old, could care less what people think of what I drive.
Even at this year’s Chicago Auto Show I went over the VW section and looked at a few “New Beetles” (pictured), I wish I could explain the attraction, but maybe it’s just thinking of that little blue Bug my dad didn’t finish.
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Filed under: Cars